Art by Kim Salac
Relationships, whether platonic or romantic, are essential in life. As we spend more time with our thoughts during this pandemic, they start to consume us, making us question our mundane activities: “Why am I friends with these particular people? Did that come off too harsh or needy? How am I really doing?” When it comes to my relationship with myself and others, I’ve found myself taking a good look in the mirror these past eight months.
Entering the new school year from home, I had to communicate virtually. The friends I had made over these past two years were suddenly in Virginia, and here I was in Houston, a thousand miles away, determining where our relationships stood. How would I solely talk to them through text or Facetime? Then I started to yearn for that old feeling … sitting in Clem 3 in a glass room, 1 am, trying to figure out life. "Will I ever have that again?," I thought. I’m stuck at home, and they are all within the same physical space, potentially meeting up with each other and seeing each other in person instead of over a screen.
At first glance, with denial, I say this is not me — I don’t follow others willingly, I’m my own person, and I can be independent. While this might be partially true, I wasn’t gazing deep into a clear mirror; my mind clouded the truth that I was codependent.
Looking at my situation clinically has provided some insight. Understanding codependency helped me analyze my personality and how I adjust myself in all cases. Codependency may be defined as one person allowing another person’s actions and behavior, group, or thing to dictate their own actions and behaviors, with the subconscious goal of protecting the self. At first glance, with denial, I say this is not me — I don’t follow others willingly, I’m my own person, and I can be independent. While this might be partially true, I wasn’t gazing deep into a clear mirror; my mind clouded the truth that I was codependent. This pandemic has altered the expectations, boundaries, and control I have in life.
As this year nears its end, and people start to reflect on their actions, I’ve taken it upon myself to see how I’ve grown. Viewing old Snapchat memories of when I was at a concert, football game, or just spending time with friends, I thought, “I took that for granted.” The rate at which I could easily detach myself from others became a recognized reality. Even though I was home and could see old friends, I didn’t, in fact, see them (again, the pandemic). It felt as if I didn’t know who I was, and everything I had done previously was a facade I put on.
I recognized -- again! -- that we’re in a pandemic, and everyone is not okay. Wanting to spend time alone isn't selfish, and when you have the mental capacity to interact with others that's not something that should run on a schedule.
Thorough consideration of myself has brought up these ponderous thoughts: “Who am I in relation to others; how much do I need them to define who I am?” I will admit that at one time I considered myself an extrovert, but I then felt mistaken. As the weeks continued to pass, and I had gone months without checking in on friends, I started to feel a hole in my chest for those small interactions I used to have walking around school, the occasional wave and smile. Yet, the moment started to fade because I recognized --again! -- that we’re in a pandemic, and everyone is not okay. Wanting to spend time alone isn't selfish, and when you have the mental capacity to interact with others that's not something that should run on a schedule.
I'm learning that whether it’s with a family member, friend, or potential partner, you have to hold space for yourself. Realizing that I was a people pleaser helped me readjust my attitude towards an independent lifestyle. I kept in mind how even virtually I could still put others’others’ needs before my own. I'm trying now to think less about how much time I have spent doing specific things in a day, and more about how much space I have allotted to myself, for myself. Life should be consumed not with transactions but instead with meaningful relationships. No matter the relationship style, platonic or romantic, boundaries must be in place to allow growth amongst each individual.
Codependency is linked to so many things: trust issues, control issues, or family issues. Would I still complete a 3 am run to Harris Teeter to finish cupcakes for everyone, or would I go to bed?
Maybe others can learn from my experience. Overcompensating for your dependency on someone takes time to realize, so noticing how it harms not only yourself but others is essential to creating healthy attachment styles. Codependency is linked to so many things: trust issues, control issues, or family issues. Would I still complete a 3 am run to Harris Teeter to finish cupcakes for everyone, or would I go to bed? Because I love baking, I might typically have thought, "make those cupcakes," neglecting how tired I felt. It took a pandemic to realize offering myself to others (baking for others, doing for others) often came from me not feeling needed, or feeling unworthy. It is important to question why you believe what you do because it can create a false sense of reality. Suddenly you will look in the mirror and not recognize who’s staring back at you.
Notice that crack in your mirror, It has always been there, and now it’s time for you to allow the mirror to break so you can start to recognize yourself. Too many distractions and false realities were formed, so now all you have to stare at is a broken mirror. Replace your mirror, set firm boundaries, and create clear goals to become who you want to be. Healing takes time, and you must allow your mirror to crack for you to acknowledge change needs to happen.